More from Life After Lithium

The first time I was ever deeply traumatized was when I was deprived of water in the hospital at age 53. Afterward, I was in so much shock that I felt my life would never be the same. It was next to impossible to get anyone to believe me. Even one of my best friends claimed I was “addicted to water.” The girls at the eating disorders hospital jeered at me, thinking no one could possibly need to drink so much. In fact, most everyone I knew was misjudging me.

I felt only slightly vindicated when I was diagnosed with diabetes insipidus the following year. Still, the anger and grief I felt over the water deprivation did not lift. Why was I not getting an apology? Why did my therapist and psychiatrist continue to call me psychotic when I wasn’t? Why did they continue to back MGH when clearly, MGH had been wrong? Why should water deprivation mean I had to go to a state hospital now? I didn’t have enough hindsight on these recent events to be able to put two and two together. I didn’t realize that their aim was to silence me. These doctors were not working for my own good, but for theirs.

It took me a long time to realize that I was not alone. Others had gone through horrific experiences while inpatient and had suffered from trauma as a result. In fact, many of the patients I knew over the years were in the same situation. They appeared angry and had the same signs of traumatic stress that I had, including anger, rapid or “pressured” speech, and difficulty holding onto relationships.

What had happened? We had found the “help” to be more harmful than any “illness” we supposedly had. The “help” had harmed so deeply that many, I feared, would never fully recover. Even worse, most patients did not even know that the cause was the “help.” Most continued to call themselves mentally ill and continued to medicate away the traumatic reaction rather than facing up to it. It is the hardest thing to admit that your doctor, or a hospital, in whom you placed utmost trust, had been negligent, abusive, or was simply barking up the wrong tree. Those of us who were relatively willing participants (coercion as opposed to a court order) have a harder time admitting this to ourselves since we might feel partially responsible. Many of us were unwitting co-conspirators in the psychiatric genocide.
As soon as I realized that others had been through similar experiences, I knew I was not alone anymore. I felt much, much better knowing this, since my doctors had repeatedly called me crazy. I knew now that I was not crazy, but grieving.

2 thoughts on “More from Life After Lithium”

  1. Beautifully written and makes an essential point. Not only do doctors and hospitals blame us, but we semi eagerly accede to being blamed and continue to do this job for them. Your MGH treatment was a crime, in every sense of the word…I am trying to let go of some of my anger at traumatic treatment but I know the rage still simmers beneath the surface!


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